Inside: Review

After years in development Inside is finally out of Limbo

Silence. Silence in the dark foreboding forest screams louder than any explosion or gunfire ever could. This is where Playdead’s Inside drops players with no instruction or indication of what’s going on or indeed the somber and oftentimes harrowing journey players are about to embark on.

A spiritual successor to Playdead’s 2010 2D puzzle platformer Limbo; Inside puts you in control of a small redshirt wearing child making his way through a twisted dystopian landscape that is simply draw-dropping. In every aspect from sound design to visuals Inside just oozes a thick and unique atmosphere, beginning with the subtle sounds of the boy’s footsteps echoing through the forest there is very little in the way of musical soundtrack, Inside instead relies on it’s beautiful ambient soundscapes to transport you.

Inside 1

Although a 2D platformer Inside has 3D sensibilities, from the particle effects such as dust and smoke hanging in the air to the lighting, like the scattered beams of sunlight shining down though the treetops. It’s hard to simply run past any of the scenery without stopping for a moment to drink it all in.

The art direction on Inside seems just meticulously crafted, the monochromatic world of decaying buildings, factories and farms is punctuated by snippets of colour, usually red, all designed to draw your eye to something important, be it something to do with a puzzle or NPCs in the background, all without it feeling like the developer is holding your hand. Much like Limbo before it, Inside simply shines in all aspects of it’s design be it the sound design down to the minute attention to detail in the animation of the boy in red; run and jump at full speed and he will hit the ground and stumble almost losing his balance before regaining composure.

The design philosophy for controls is to be incredibly simple not extending past run left, run right, jump and interact. This isn’t to say the puzzles are simple, although I found them easier than those found in Limbo, as the boy in red makes his way through the world puzzles do become more complex requiring more precise timing and involving multiple stages.

I never felt I was repeating puzzles over and over, as is often the case in these sorts of games, challenges changed organically depending on the environment you are traveling through; from moving boxes to reach higher ledges, using switches to manipulate the environment around you to diving into water surfacing just in time before you run out of air. There are other obstacles to over come like guards and dogs that at specific times will chase the boy in red, these chase sequences are masterfully paced giving you just enough time to escape leaping to safety at the very last possible moment making for some very tense getaways. You will die and you will die often, death in Inside is inevitable and unavoidable it’s all part of the learning curve.

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I’ve not touched on the story in this review for a very specific reason, the events that transpire need to be seen and experienced first hand. You will not be told a narrative that has a simple explanation that is not the point of Inside and the ending will undoubtedly leave you with more questions than answers, answers that will never come. What transpires in the closing half hour or so of gameplay is something I have never seen in a game before find hard to put into words accurately enough to describe to anyone who hasn’t played the game and as the credits rolled I was compelled to start again immediately and experience it all again.

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If I was to compare it to anything I suppose I would compare the story or journey to a David Lynch film there is no explanation it is all down to your own interpretation as to what happens. Perhaps this is why the boy in red has no features or emotions, he is an avatar through which we the player experience the baffling and cruel beauty of this world.

– Dan P



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